The path to creating and running the oldest cannabis retreat in the United States began with a simple hand gesture during a yoga session.
Shelly Jenkins, owner of Twisted Sister Yoga in Denver, had a powerful experience during her first yoga class, which was held at a fitness studio. “When the teacher cued a simple hands to heart mudra, a symbolic hand gesture, I could barely keep my shit together. Tears began streaming down my cheeks and my heart filled with emotion. It was powerful. It felt right. It felt like home,” said Jenkins. “The feeling was amazing, and I was hooked immediately.” She began practicing regularly and trained to become a teacher a year later.
Jenkins began Twisted Sister Yoga to share the power of yoga with others. Established in 2012, the donation-only yoga studio partners with DANK, a Denver dispensary, for ganja yoga classes and retreats. She connected to DANK through Women Grow, an organization that connects women in the cannabis industry and ended up using their warehouse space for classes. Jenkins partners with DANK to offer strains that have relaxing qualities during cannabis yoga classes and retreats.
Jenkins has found that incorporating cannabis into yoga can be a useful wellness tool. “I believe in the healing power of cannabis and yoga,” said Jenkins. “My eyes were opened to this after being in India where holy men, Sadhus, incorporate plant medicine into daily rituals and practice ganja yoga every day.” Jenkins practices ganja yoga daily.
Cannabis has been connected to yoga for millennia and is mentioned as one of five sacred plants in the Vedas. “They share many healing attributes, whether taken together or individually. They are both great at reducing stress. They both have positive impact on those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder,” Jenkins said. “They effectively treat chronic pain.”
“We try to consume strains known for their relaxing qualities.”
Incorporating cannabis into Twisted Sister Yoga’s practice has been welcomed by students since the beginning. “It was unique and comfortable, especially for new yogis,” Jenkins shared. “It is dimly lit and without mirrors; it came without judgment and was definitely not focused on image or appearance. More puff, less fluff!”
The cannabis class begins with a smoke ceremony using a strain of cannabis specially curated by DANK. “Through our collaboration, we selected a few genetics from their operation that would be ideal for ganja yoga classes and retreats,” said Jenkins. “We try to consume strains known for their relaxing qualities.”
The ganja yoga retreat Elevate and Align in July included a class at the studio before touring DANK Dispensary, then traveling to a private ranch in Aspen with over 400 acres alongside the William Forks River. Twisted Sister also held two women’s ganja retreats this summer at Lazy RB Ranch and Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa. “Friends are made, bonds are created, and community is felt. Besides outside connection, we also offer many introspective workshops that allow attendees to make a deeper connection with themselves,” said Jenkins. The retreats included ganja yoga, cannabis cooking classes and education, a happy hour and bud bar, creating sacred pipes, mala and introspective classes.
“These workshops are transformational and can catapult one’s life in a desired direction. Through these shared experiences, we connect and see each other,” Jenkins recalled. “The plant teaches us we are one, and our practice reinforces that belief. “
Jenkins’ wellness retreats are even attracting international tourists. “As cannabis continues to gain acceptance, people are attending retreats from as far as Russia and Canada. The event is popular with tourists and residents alike, and we will continue expanding to provide cannabis retreats in other legal markets.”
Jenkins mentioned that she is traveling to explore possible international retreat locations for 2019.
Twisted Sister’s ganja yoga classes are at Urban Sanctuary on Welton Street in Denver at 7 p.m. The class is $25, for ages 21 and over only. Classes generally follow the Hatha yoga type, which combines poses and breathing exercises and can incorporate beginners to yoga as well as more seasoned practitioners. Classes include a mellow Sunday morning class and several during the week that can be adjusted to accommodate all skill levels.